History is in the making this afternoon when the country’s football powerhouses Mighty Be Forward Wanderers and Nyasa Big Bullets clash in what promises to be a classic battle in the Airtel Top 8 semi-finals at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.
Business in the country’s Capital City will be brought to a a standstill when thousands of supporters, some painting themselves in their club’s colours, will bear witness to this semi-final clash.
It’s a final before the actual cup final which will see the winner facing Blue Eagles in the ultimate battle for the K15 million top prize.
Wanderers new head coach Bob Mpinganjira and his brother assistant coach Albert, may have tormented Bullets in their playing days, but they need to learn a thing or two from former mentor Yasin Osman who is now the team’s technical director.
Bullets’ flying start has seen them go unbeaten in all competitions and they lead the TNM Super League table, which speaks volumes of what the Mpinganjira brothers should expect.
Following a depressing weekend away to Red Lions where they suffered a shocking 1-0 loss, the Nomads have the perfect opportunity to turn things around.
They have a chance to challenge for the prestigious cup, but unfortunately against one of the rivals they have been struggling to beat.
Soft-spoken Bob was optimistic that this afternoon’s battle will go the Nomads’ way.
“We have been working hard to rectify most of the areas we needed to improve. It’s a tough encounter, but we should be able to come out victors,” he said.
Though going into the match as favourites, Bullets assistant coach Elia Kananji was cautious.
“Cup games are unpredictable. But we are going into the match to win,” he said.
Both teams share a footballing philosophy built on slow build-ups from the back, then swift passing in the midfield before surging forward through the wings.
Bullets have been using the 3-5-2 formation with Bashir Maunde, Miracle Gabeya and captain John Lanjesi in defence; Chimango Kayira, Henry Kabichi, Fischer Kondowe, Mike Mkwate and Righteous Banda in midfield while Chiukepo Msowoya and Bright Munthali lead the attack.
It’s no secret that Bullets’ attacking prowess lies in experienced Chiukepo. Blessed with predatory instinct, he uses his excellent positioning, aerial superiority and stamina to bulldoze defenders.
If Chiukepo is having a bad day, Bullets simply turn to Munthali who has also proved to be another forward difficult to shackle.
Super-sub Patrick Phiri, is often effective when deployed in the last 30 minutes to kill off the opponents’ resistance.
Wanderers on the other hand, place so much faith on elusive Peter Wadabwa. He uses pace, dribbling wizardly and is prone to cut inside onto his right trying to utilize any opening and exploit the enemy’s defence before invading the 18-yard box, but surprisingly, he has been dropped for this encounter.
Esau Kanyenda has not been visible and is yet to score in the 2018 season. But Wanderers still have faith in the veteran.
He was given a chance to start in the last match against Red Lions alongside new-signing Zicco Mkanda while Julius Kajembe warmed the bench. This afternoon Bob could do the same.
The Nomads have also welcomed Harry Nyirenda from injury which gives Bob plenty of options at the back.
Nyirenda may partner Lucky Malata in central defence with Stanley Sanudi and Bongani Kaipa on the left and right back positions.
Though a natural left back, Precious Sambani can comfortably be deployed as a winger though the Nomads prefer Felix Zulu and Ernest Tambe with Yamikani Chester and Mike Kaziputa on the bench.
In central midfield, the Nomads have kept their faith in Joseph Kamwendo and hard-tackling Alfred Manyonzo Jnr.
The last time the two sides met was in the Super League first round which ended in a controversial goalless draw.